Having faithfully served the travel retail industry for 36 years, industry stalwart, Jonathan Smith is retiring and therefore stepping down from his role as Executive & Travel Retail Director with Travel Blue Group; a company he first joined 13 years ago.
Smith’s first job in the sector was with Alfred Dunhill where he held the position of Sales Manager for the UK domestic market including ‘UK Duty Free’.
“The whole idea of flying and travel, the environment and the captive audience, meant I found duty free much more exciting than the local market,” Smith told TRBusiness in an exclusive interview.
Tasked with opening Dunhill’s first brand identified stores and corners in Heathrow and Gatwick, by the time he left the brand he was responsible for jewellery across global duty free markets.
He moved on to Aquascutum, another luxury brand, and from there to Ronson PLC as a Director before starting his own company ‘House of Brands’ which traded for almost 10 years.
It was at this point he joined leading travel accessories group, Travel Blue, where he has spent the last 13 years.
“I have seen many changes/amalgamations in the industry over the years,” remarked Smith.
“One of these being the abolition of duty free in the EU in 1999. Back then, many in the UK duty free industry were very nervous, afraid of what it would do to their businesses. This as we now know was a complete fallacy; business as usual.”
Smith also recalls that 35 years ago the business was far more fragmented than it is now. “Today, the top 20 global operators have the greater percentage of the global travel retail business than 35 years ago; it was much more fragmented and there were very few ‘international multiples’.”
Smith has overcome obstacles and turbulent trading periods during the Gulf Wars as well as SARS, major terrorism incidents and most recently Covid.
“I joined Travel Blue in March 2010,” he added. “Travel Blue has been the most amazing journey of my 36 years working in travel retail.
“Our biggest achievements? Convincing the travel retail industry that travel accessories, as impulse products, are guaranteed to sell, and appeal to all consumers.
“Over time, we have not only convinced key customers, but we have built a global distribution and along the way, more competitive companies have followed.
“Seven years ago, we had only one competitor and now there are a number of brands. If we hadn’t set the pace, they wouldn’t have been interested,” insisted Smith.
“I will really miss the Travel Blue team, especially Avi, his son Daniel, (our new Managing Director) and Sam, our UK Sales Office Manager, who has worked tirelessly over the years and been immensely supportive. I have made true friends over the years for which I am very grateful.”
Boasting a huge wealth of experience, knowledge and contacts made over 36 years, Smith intends to continue working in the channel on a part-time basis, “by helping and generally supporting where I can with whomever needs my expertise,” he said.
He can be contacted at [email protected].